Regulatory harmony could benefit North America

The United States and Canada could follow the example of Australia and New Zealand when it comes to cross-border regulatory harmony in the foods and supplements sectors, although any closer linking of the two North American nation's set-ups is unlikely to happen in the near future, according to Canadian-based industry consultant, Ian Newton of Ceres Consulting.

"In addition to companies and academic groups, the NZ regulators in harmony with Australia are providing good advice to consumers via labelling and claims," he observed. "They are also permitting new actives into foods for the growing functional-food markets. Compared to what I see between the US and Canada where labelling and health claims are so far apart, the relationship of the two nations in the southern hemisphere should be looked at as a guide for regulators here."

By way of example, he cited the fact that Canada had not approved sterol use in a number of foods as "bordering on dereliction of duty."

The Tasman Sea neighbours established an independent statutory agency in 1991 as part of an 'integrated food regulatory system involving the governments of Australia and New Zealand.' Newton noted the substantial cost savings available to both countries as "the driving science re: additives, toxins, nutrition labelling, etc, is really all the same in the end."

Marquaird Imfeld, senior consultant at Swiss-based foods and ingredients regulatory advice specialists, Bioresco, agreed it would be a long time coming before the US and Canadian systems aligned, since Canada closely followed Codex principles — as do almost all countries except the US and Singapore — while the US operated under more laissez faire guidelines.

"The French influence in Canada is significant because the French are notoriously conservative in food matters," he said. "Australia and New Zealand did not have such problems to overcome. The US and Canada will never work together."

However, he said, although there were many benefits to be had from harmonisation, the ongoing development of ethnic-food markets could be threatened if all jurisdictions fell under the same regulation umbrella.

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